Michael Maness on the future of news

Michael Maness

Volatility in many ways is a marker of modern journalism. The profession is dealing with persistent concerns about the future. Yet in an atmosphere that verges on disquietude, one thing is certain: journalism is changing.

Michael Maness, vice president of journalism and media innovation for the Knight Foundation, discussed at an event at Northeastern University this week many of the ways in which traditional media is changing or being supplanted by start-ups. He touched on how reporters can no longer keep up with the demands for immediacy that have essentially eliminated the news cycle and how robots can replace humans in writing boilerplate pieces.

But among all the subjects Maness mentioned, Twitter was for obvious reasons the most important to me. He described the platform as a service for hyperproducers and hyperconsumers of news, which in some ways relates to the concept that Twitter caters to a small audience.

What struck me most, however, was Maness’s thoughts on the role of reporters as digital journalism grows. He said social media allow people not only to tell their own stories or recount events they witnessed, but also to distribute their thoughts. This notion represents a direct hit on the usefulness of journalists, at least in their traditional roles.

Maness explained that news organizations can adapt and maintain a key role in the new media ecosystem, though. Journalism, he said, is then about filtering, curating, authenticating, and amplifying news that comes from platforms like Twitter. Maness offered the example of Andy Carvin, an NPR strategist who gained fame for his tracking of the Arab Spring through tweets.

This concept reminded me of the discussion my Reinventing the News Class had earlier this year with Josh Stearns of Free Press. The role of a journalist is obviously changing, and in their recognition of this fact, Maness and Stearns conveyed a similar message. A reporter’s job now is to take all the noise, the buzz on the Internet, and channel it into something that sings.

Photo (cc) by Knight Foundation and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

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